ICE STORM 2014! Cue the dramatic music. Looking out the window as I write this today it is a very mild day in Seattle. Hard to believe that only two days ago I was in an ice storm and 22 degree weather. To get home, Charles and I had to drive down to OR and then back up to WA since the I-90 pass was closed for avalanche control. A 5 hour trip turned in to 8 plus hours. All of this drama was from the 2nd annual JC Steel Challenge. Held in Prescott, WA. at a gorgeous ranch location, about 200 competitors attempted to complete 25 rifle stages in two days. The weather and lack of daylight hours proved us otherwise.
I suppose if a match is held in March the chance of crazy or cold weather is pretty good. But I actually planned well and had the appropriate gear and plenty of layers. Other than occasional cold fingers and toes I was a happy camper. Don’t get me wrong. It was miserably cold and windy at times. And the Sunday ice rain was not exactly pleasant. But I, as well as all competitors stuck it out. Or perhaps we had no choice since we were
stranded on top of a mountain. It is called the Challenge after all. The match was held over two days and each day 13 stages were scheduled. Saturday many squads were not able to finish due to light. I think 13 stages a day were quite ambitious. On Sunday they shortened it by 2 stages but then we had the ice rain and the visibility disappeared. So the match was called and only Saturday’s results were counted. Sunday also had many squad back-ups that made the wait time pretty frustrating if not really cold. A KYL stage was thrown out as well since all of the targets fell off the bar. It was shut down just as my squad arrived. Even though, the match was great and I enjoyed the stages. And I loved especially that the targets were a little bigger this year. It gets very windy up there and last year it was a challenge trying to hit the tiny steel they gave us.
Most stages had targets from 250 – 600 yards. There was one with targets at 1000 and 1300 yards. Of course my 308 – 175 gr bullets just laughed at
me as I launched them at the 1300 yard target. But I attempted it anyway. There were stages with shoot houses, dog houses, roofs, stairs and moving platforms. All of the position shooting was represented. We had a provided full-auto rifle during one stage. I learn so much at every match by watching the seasoned shooters. Pay careful attention to the stage rules and many times you can use your pack as a support or certain positions can be “altered”. People are sneaky out there. If the rules don’t specify restrictions, than anything goes. I did really miss the helicopter we had last year. That was an extravagance I hope to experience again somewhere. This was the first match with all of my new gear.
This was the perfect event to test out all of the new equipment, accessories and clothing I have accumulated for this game. My Triple Aught Design layers of clothing seriously kept me warm. Worth every penny. My white furry hat may have looked funny but did I care? No! I looked like more of a snow bunny than s shooter. But my head was warm. My Eberlestock backpack was fun to test but I could not figure out why it was so heavy! I was wearing everything. All I had in there was my ammo and a few things. Then throw in the rifle and it felt like 50#. I thought I had strong arms from my Palma shooting. I just found a new workout. I will be wearing that on my dog walks from now on. Sans rifle of course. Seattleites would not appreciate that. My new rifle that Ken Hagan of H&H Precision made me was perfect. If you have not heard me brag it about already it is chambered in 308, H&H Precision action, Benchmark Barrel, Mcree chassis, Accu-Grip
adjustable grip, Leupold MK 6, Elite Irons Revolution Bi-Pod and brake. I have to be honest, I was concerned the bi-pod was not going to work well for this precision game but it did. The wide stance of the legs and the spikey feet were super stable. It is easy to take on or off. Collapsing the legs was easier than expected as well. I will do a review on it shortly. My ammo was made by the gang at Tactical Ammunition for me. They scrambled and made my ammo in one day and shipped it to me in time for the match. I made a mistake though. I knew better to stick with 155gr but at the last minute I switched to 175. I should have stuck with my instincts. The 175 just has too big of a drop. I know 155 shoots flatter and I know its wind calls. Until I change calibers the 155 will be it. We also put our Kestrels to the test again. Unfortunately we had two issues. My Kestrel for some reason is not holding battery power. It dies within hours. No I did not leave the Bluetooth on. The company has been great in responding and I will send it back to them. Charles’ Kestrel had an older program and the compass would go haywire and then not calibrate. Apparently that has been an issue with a batch and they have an upgrade for us to load and it should solve that problem. You do not realize how much you depend on it when out there at each stage. So hopefully by our next match we will have fresh and new weather meters.
As always, for me the best part about shooting is the people. I loved my squad for the weekend. Rookie and pro shooters together and everyone is eager to help each other out. Jake of JC Steel Targets put on a good match. Not much you can do about the weather. My guess is that next year there will not be quite as many stages per day. Each year only gets better with these new events. The sponsors provided an incredible table of prizes. Thank you to
them all! The cooks fed us well with hearty breakfasts and dinners. The 6am call time was a bit rough especially when you have to drive an hour to get there. But you do need all of the day light hours you can get. A huge thank you to all of the volunteer RO’s that froze their butts off out there. At least a couple of you got propane heaters on Sunday. I did melt my rain pants on one of them trying to warm up. A minor gear injury really.